Would you be able to live with the heart of another beating inside your chest? Well, not in the distant future for us humans, but for the record a baboon was able to keep it beating inside its body for more than two years.
Scientists from the National Institute of Health was able to set a new record after it successfully integrated a genetically engineered pig’s heart into a baboon, giving hope to the possibility of someday using this discovery for the advancement of regenerative medicine.
The researchers, who were involved in the extensive study for almost a decade, achieved this landmark finding that takes science a step forward in cross-species organ transplants.
The study involved several primates from which a previous record was bestowed on a baboon with a transplanted heart that lived for 179 days, with this one being able to survive a record 945 days.
The pig’s heart was actually not used to replace the baboon’s heart, but was surgically connected into the primate’s circulatory system and stored inside its abdomen – while the original heart is still functioning properly.
The “second’ heart was also meant to be used for studies to determine the immune responses of a host body on a transplanted heart that belonged to a different species.
The researchers also wanted to study the possible rejection of the baboon’s immune system without the need to conduct more complex heart surgeries and at the same time intending that the baboon will continue to survive with its original heart if in case it rejects the ‘alien’ organ.
Baboons were used for research due to its mostly similar characteristics and genetic semblances to humans.
Researchers admitted that science still has a very long way to go before it can replicate the process in humans, but discoveries such as these could someday be used to support future studies of a similar nature.
Heart transplants have come a long way and is seeing a slow yet steady progress after survival rates have increased significantly during the last 25 years.
The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients revealed that current survival rates for heart transplant patients is 88% in one year and 76% for those lasting three year, based on heart transplant data up until June 2010.
Image Credit: Baboons are often… – Tony Campbell
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